The large number of concussions among football players has been in the news but you may be surprised to know that soccer players are at a high risk for concussions as well. Soccer is often overlooked when considering the risk of concussions. Soccer training begins early and is often played year-round, leading to more concussions. Heading the ball in soccer is also a major contributor to the number of concussions among soccer players.
With all of the talk of concussions risk in sports being focused on football, soccer is often seen as the safe alternative. This and the misconception that soccer is not a full contact sport leads to a large number of soccer related concussions being ignored. Direct contact is not the only cause of concussions that put soccer players at a higher risk. There is a large instance of limb or body to head contact and falls where the head is jerked around or hits the ground are also common. All of this factors into an increased risk of concussions for soccer players.
Soccer training often begins at a young age, as early as three years old. With the head to body ratio being much higher among children, the neck cannot support the head properly for those quick move changes and stop. The head jerks around, much like it would in an automobile accident and the brain moves inside the head. The brain is still developing so it suffers more damage than a fully developed brain would. The emergence of soccer leagues in every season also means that there is no recovery or rest time for these young athletes. Most sports take place in one season a year, allowing rest for those athletes as well as off-season training that can focus on conditioning and safety. Soccer players are at a high risk of repeat concussions because of over-training and a more vigorous game schedule.
The biggest concussion risk factor for soccer players is heading the ball. The ball is flying through the air at as many as 50 mph when it comes in contact with a soccer player’s head. This not only causes an impact injury, but a jolting or movement-related injury. Youth soccer players again are at a greater risk for concussion due to heading. Coaches should eliminate heading from their practice regimen until players are much older.
With the focus on football concussions, the higher risk that soccer players are at for concussion has been greatly ignored. The risks must not be ignored for soccer players and must be considered by parents, players and coaches. Contact, early training and year-round play all contribute to the increased risk. If you have questions about concussion risk for soccer players it would be wise to contact a practitioner that is well educated and experienced in working with concussion and the side effects of concussions.